|Two Rings, One Heart, Our Lives Forever Entwined|
Divorce rate in America is the highest of any other country at 50% with young couples placed at the highest risk for failure within the first few years of marriage. Statistics indicate a decline in the divorce rate with couples in their late 20s through 30s. My theory is those who marry young are lacking the maturity to deal with the many facets of married life. That part of their mentality is still under development. With that in mind, the cards were stacked against us from the start.
On Christmas Eve 1978, I became engaged to my husband. The happy news delighted our family and friends. Robin and I had been dating for three years. Like any young girl, I was thrilled with the prospect of getting married. What girl isn’t? Unfortunately, not everyone shared our enthusiasm for the upcoming nuptials. “Why,” you ask. We were mere youngsters and in the opposition’s eyes, we were acting on foolish, whimsical fantasies, but we believed otherwise.
This is where the skeptics entered our realm. They were do-gooders and meant well, but it you know how it is, you can’t tell a teenager anything because they are certain they know everything anyhow. In retrospect and looking through a parent’s eye, I would be quaking in my shoes if my own daughters were wooed away by some young man at such an early. So, I clearly understand why some people were in protest of two young people getting married. Our critics’ main concern was my education. They were confidant I wouldn’t finish my journey in earning my high school diploma.
I’m the oldest of four. At that time, I was 17 years old and a junior in high school. I was delegated adult responsibilities ever since my mother began working outside the home in the mid-70s. That wasn’t unusual for a young girl in southern West Virginia, but I felt I was like a second mother to my brothers and sister. My soon-to-be husband was finishing up his education at a state college. He would graduate with high honors as valedictorian a few days prior to our wedding date. Fortunately for him, he was offered a position with a Federal utility company in the Tennessee Valley upon graduation.
Growing up in rural West Virginia, though, it wasn’t uncommon for girls of that age to be wed and there have been occasions when girls were as young as 15. I fell into the typical demographics for the region; I was anything, but typical, though. Despite wanting to be married, I didn’t desire to begin a family immediately. That was absolutely out of the norm and my goals were clearly defined in my mind - to finish high school and college. I was more than ever determined to prove our skeptics wrong on this score. Who knows, maybe that was their plan all along – reverse psychology tactics?
June 9, 1979, the day of the big event ushered in. The most thrilling occasion of any woman’s life and it was now here for me. Was I nervous? Oh you bet I was. My daddy walked me down the aisle in tune to the traditional Wedding march. I fought back the flood gate of tears damned behind my eyes as a sea of emotions washed over me. My mother, grandmothers, and soon-to-be mother-in-law sat in the church that day crying. Weddings are tear-jerking events for most women. I’d like to tell you our ceremony was a beautiful one, but I’d be deceitful if I told you it was when in fact, I simply cannot remember. I had the worst case of nervous jitters possible. It was so bad that I could not even recite our vows. I felt like my tongue was glued down.
We survived the photo shoot and reception which followed the ceremony with flying colors, and then we were off for that most scared and sanctifying marital trip known as a “Honeymoon”. The first time for husband and wife to come together as God had intended. Oh the innocence of our youth and of the time we were reared. Would it not be grand if our society still kept disciple over this almighty emotional awakening until the appointed time – ones’ wedding night? My husband reserved a quaint, secluded cabin at Blue Stone State Park. Our romantic hide-away was nestled in the ‘Almost Heaven West Virginia’ mountains. It was perfect.
After our unspoiled Honeymoon, we uprooted our few belongings to head to our new home and life in Knoxville, Tennessee. We rented a little place just outside the city limits of Knoxville. I straightaway got enrolled in a high school and we tended to many important jobs to make ourselves official transplants to the area.
The thrill of beginning fresh at a new school had some of the usual appeal, but quickly the luster in my eye became dull. I found it difficult to make new friends at the high school. I was not only the new kid on the block, but married which separated me from virtually every click. What was normal in my hometown- married senior high school girls was practically zero in my new school. I didn’t share anything in common with these kids and felt so out of place. To make matters worse, I had an English teacher who made my life miserable.
What should have been a joyful time for me was anything, but that. I became so dissatisfied with school and made excuses to keep from going to class to avoid an unpleasant situation. Great despair loomed over me, as my dreams crashed around me. I recalled those nagging words of our skeptics, “You’ll never finish school,” ringing through my brain like a bad nursery rhythm. I pulled myself out of my own self-pity and fought my way out of the mess I created and went back to class. When I transferred my old high school transcript to my new school, it gave me an advantage of extra credit hours over my classmates. This allowed me to graduate three months early. I was elated to walk across Colosseum stage to receive my high school diploma in June 1980.
On our first anniversary, family began asking us when we would have children. That wasn’t in my direct future; I had yet to go to college and buy a home. That fall not only did I begin my associate degree studies at a technical school, we bought a house through the help of a FHA THDA loan for first time home owners. We so blessed with this opportunity. The housing and banking industries were in horrible trouble in the early 80s, but this loan made it more reasonable and we were able to invest now into our own place. I was only 18 years old and felt accomplished somehow.
In the spring of 1983, I completed my second original goal – college graduation. The fall of that year, I started my career as a computer sales consultant for a small business. I learned that I wasn’t salesman’s material, but I gained a wealth of valuable training. The five years that proceeded, I went through several positions with each superseding the last. Coincidentally, during this period, my motherly urges would rise and fall like ocean waves. One minute, I wanted a baby and then the next, I didn’t. I contributed these swells of emotions on the circumstances which surrounded me. All of my girlfriends were having babies around me and this planted the seed of yearning in me.
By our 8th anniversary, we finally began entertaining the notion of parenthood. However, the uneasiness of the uncertainty wouldn’t rest. After all, were we willing to give up the freedoms that we’ve known all of our married life to take on such a daunting task? Children are an enormous responsibility and a matter which shouldn’t be taken lightly. Could we handle the demands that come with adding a small one to our lives? That fall 1987, those ole parenting sentiments hit an all-time high. At last, we pushed aside all the nagging negativity that hindered us for years and listened to what God wanted for us and we committed to starting a family.
We have been married 31-years and have been blessed with three fine children. I was fortunate to leave the work force in 1988 after our first child’s birth and have been happy to remain in the home camp as Mommy, housewife, and home educator. We are happier together today than the day we got married. It’s quite true many young couples do not survive their youthful marriages. I credit our own success to God. He is the glue that has kept us together. His leadership has provided a path for us to follow, as we grew up as two separate entities while remaining as one. We are not only husband and wife, but each other’s best-friend. We have learned building a marriage takes many years of tender cultivating and we are happy that we stuck it out ‘for better or for worse’ as we promised in our wedding vows. Although, the grass may appear to be greener on the other side of the fence from time-to-time, let’s face it; it’s just as green on our side, too. Like our wedding vows, we’ll keep to the closing, ‘until death do us part.’ Married at 17, success or failure? I’ll let you decide.